Although there’s nothing wrong with feeling good, Jewish tradition has always placed a much higher value on doing good than feeling good. Who wouldn’t like to receive reward after reward for every mitzvah and good deed we perform? That we don’t underlies a great many spiritual truths, but I think we can all agree that life without constant reward is the norm.
If things do, indeed, work out for you as you try to live the most worthwhile, responsible, constructive life you can, Kol HaKavod, I salute you. But we rarely read books or see movies about lives of ease. Much more commonly, our opportunities to rise to a heroic challenge come with struggle, repeated failures and perseverance.
We’re each born with a unique Neshama. The true significance of this uniqueness is that of all the people ever born or ever to be born, there are certain necessary tasks that only you can fulfill. Or, as our deep tradition describes it, there are certain nitzutzei kedusha, holy sparks, uniquely assigned to an individual Neshama, which need to be restored for the world to reach its greatest potential.
Sometimes our role is dramatic, the very stuff of a Hollywood blockbuster, but more frequently it’s the much more prosaic, the daily effort of small achievements for which we rarely receive feedback. Nonetheless, our contributions are absolutely necessary and we only succeed with these day-in/day-out efforts. Anonymity, while not so dramatic, can be just as difficult an obstace to overcome as any. The work is often hard; facing Yom Kippur and looking forward to our our challenges, individual, communal and national, we need every strength we can gather.
The bracha I want to offer is described in the words of King David, Tehillim (Psalms) 84:8, יֵלְכוּ מֵחַיִל אֶל־חָיִל יֵרָאֶה אֶל־אֱלֹהִים בְּצִיּוֹן, (Yeylchu Me’Chayil El Chayil, Ye’Raeh El Elohim B’Tziyon), that we all be among those who “Go from strength to strength, (finally) appearing before God in Zion”. May we be confident God has already given us all the resources we each need for our journey to succeed.